"How to frontlight your
Chances are if you have found your way here you have probably tried one of the tutorials showing how to front light your GameBoy Colour. They are all just rehashes showing the "standard" method which seems to have originated with This Tutorial by Micheal J Moffitt (although I could be wrong) which describes how to frontlight your GameBoy Colour by mounting a frontlight unit from a GameBoy Advance SP vertically in the GBC shell. I think it's also fairly safe to assume, given that you are reading this, that you also had the same disappointed feeling I did when I finished it and then realised...... it really isn't all that great. The colours are all washed out and shit, there is loads of horrible glare, it feels like you are viewing the screen through a square tunnel. But worst of all you are giving yourself neck and wrist strain trying to hold the thing at an angle where you can actually see the fucking screen thanks to the light being polarised in the wrong direction. Don't get me wrong I am not knocking the original mod or it's creator. I actual think it's really brilliant idea and not something I would have thought of. And a real easy and fun project to do. I have nothing but admiration and respect for anyone who comes up with stuff like this and shares their work freely on the internet for people like you and me to take advantage of and learn from. Without them none of this would be possible. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, that's how progress works. It's just that if what your after is a really well lit GameBoy Colour which is a joy to play The standard mod isn't gonna do it for ya.
......Henry Heimlich [eddie Izzard]
Now I know I can't be the only person ever try the original method and think, "This would work a million times better if the light unit was mounted horizontally like in the GBA SP" as is evidenced by the deluge of emails I have received of late asking me to do a proper tutorial on the subject. I am also fairly confident that I am not the only person in the world ever to have wasted a ridiculous amount of time and money trying to do it, but it does seem at least that I am the first person to actually get the method down pat and to show the results on the tinterweb, which is weird. So I believe I am right in saying (and I could be wrong) that this is the First Ever tutorial on "How to Frontlight your GameBoy Colour Horizontally".
The standard Frontlight mod.....................
When I first did this mod a couple of years ago I couldn't find any "How to's" or info at all on the subject of mounting the light unit horizontally so I just decided to have a go and I fucked up a fair few GBA SP's in the process but once I start something I'm like a dog with a bone and that fucker is getting done no matter how much time and money I waste in the process. You can see the original article I wrote here. Now a fair few people seem to have read the original article and and at least a couple of those did the horizontal mod just from the photos I originally posted, but the problem most people seem to have is that there aren't really any clear instructions or pictures of how to cut down the lens down and not everybody has the time, money, inclination or obsessive mindset needed to spend hours of your life and £'s of your money perfecting something as ultimately pointless as this. I did start by taking pictures as I was doing it but I fucked it up so many times trying to get it perfect that I just stopped taking them in the end as I never knew whether or not it was going to work properly "this time", until it did. Thing is, once I had managed to do it to my satisfaction and built up a massive shoebox of GBA SP spares minus light units in the process, I just lost interest................. challenge complete.
The Horizontal mylkmod.................
That is until a couple of months back when a couple of lovely people linked my article on a forum post and a youtube video I started getting a few emails a week from people asking me how to cut down the light unit or if I could do a full how to. I still can't actually believe that somebody somewhere hasn't done it already but there you go.
So without further ado.......due to lack of supply and overwhelming demand I have finally got my shit together and decided to present to you......(drum roll please)
"How to frontlight your Gameboy Colour in a way that doesn't make you want to kill yourself every time you turn it on"........so here it goes
Now, the thing is, you could just get the light unit out of GBA SP and chop it down and stick it in your GameBoy Colour as a few people seem to have done. But the results will be worse than the standard mod and
I have seen a couple of laughably poor attempts, one of
them actually offering to take your money in exchange for ruining your GBC in this way. Look if you are gonna do something and show it off on the internet and especially if you are going to try and charge money for it, for fucks sake do it properly!
In order to Perfectly frontlight your GameBoy Colour you will need the following items
- A GameBoy Colour
- GBA SP, Preferably broken (get 2 if you can, you will fuck this up)
- New GBC screen cover/protector thing
- Tri wing screwdriver
- Can of air duster (Compressed air) or access to a compressor (optional)*
- NEW* [24/5/ 2014] - 50mmx50mm Poarised film (optional)*
- wire cutter or tin snips
- Small phillips head screwdriver
- Small file
- hacksaw / hacksaw blade
- Brasso or other polishing compound
- Sandpaper 1200 grit ( +800 grit if you have it)
- Craft knife, Scalpel or Stanley knife
- Soldering Iron and solder
- A 47ohm (or there abouts) resistor (Yellow/Purple/Black)
- Masking tape or electricians tape
The last time I did this mod was with some kind of Dremel style rotary tool with cutting discs but I am well aware that not everybody has access to such a thing or the spare cash to buy one so I thought I would have a go using nothing more complicated than a Hacksaw. The good news is as long as you follow my instructions a hacksaw works just fine, it's actually easier provided you do it the right way.
So........ the way I see it, if you want your GameBoy Colour to be lit up perfectly just like the screen in your GBA SP, what needs to happen is the frontlight unit should be used in such a way that it is as close as humanly possible to the way it was originally intended. Someone at Nintendo spent a lot of time and energy designing and perfecting the front light in the GameBoy Advance SP, it would be silly to ignore or waste that research (actually to be fair I think Nintendo actually stole the front light idea/design from some guy who designed it as aftermarket part for the original unlit GBA but the point remains the same).
So that means -
- Light strip cut to size and positioned horizontally across the bottom, not the side. So the light is polarised in the right direction for the most natural viewing angle
- Polarized perspex screen positioned right up against the screen protector (not a couple of millimeters away) to stop glare and prevent that horrible......"Viewing the Screen through a square tunnel effect"
- Reflective metal strip cut down to size and the end re-finished
- All 3 layers sandwiched together properly and sealed to stop dust getting sucked in from static charge
- NEW* An extra polarised layer to compensate for the increased reflectiveness of the GBC screen over the SP one.
The thing that most people generally don't seem to understand is that if you don't sand and polish the ragged ends of the lens you end up with horrible refraction patterns all over the screen as light is reflected from the jagged edges. Also you can't just saw the metal strip down and leave the end open. You will be left with a dark corner on the right hand side because all the light is escaping from the end of the metal channel rather than being reflected back down the strip. Dealing with all of this without damaging or dirtying the the polarised lens is no mean feat.
NEW* There is also the issue of the tackling the reflectiveness of the GameBoy Colour screen. The GBC obviously designed to be used without a frontlight. As such it's screen is more reflective that the GBA SP screen so it can take full advantage of all the ambient light. To see what I mean just put a GameBoy Colour and GBA SP side by side, turn them both on and then knock the light off on the SP. They don't react in quite the same way. The GameBoy Colour is more metallic looking and reflective.
Right we are almost ready to get cracking the only thing for me to add is this.............
There are a lot of do's and don'ts in this "how to" and I don't want to sound like a pedantic, anal bastard but I learned all these lessons the hard and expensive way ( through trial and error) so you don't have to. Now you could cut corners and ignore my advice but if you want a really clean job I promise you, you will be disappointed with the results. If you are going to cut corners and rush it, you might as well just do it the normal way which is far easier. I do however promise that if you follow all of my instructions exactly, you will end up with "a perfectly lit GameBoy Colour".
Open up the
You probably already know how to do this but in case you don't.....Remove the 6 screws from the back of the GBC using the tri wing screwdriver. There are 4 really obvious ones on the back cover and 2 hidden in the battery compartment. Remove the back shell, it should just lift right off.
Detach the ribbon cable that connects the screen to the motherboard by pushing the 2 little black tabs on either side upwards. The ribbon cable should now slide out easily. Then unscrew the 3 phillips head screws which hold the motherboard to front shell of GameBoy and lift out the board, watch out for the plastic on/off slider which has a tendency to fall out without you noticing and land somewhere you will never find it again.
Remove the buttons, D-pad and rubber contact pads along with plastic the on/off slider and put them somewhere they won't get lost. You should remove the little translucent black plastic panel which sits above the black and purple IR LEDS up at the top, as this can also slide out and get lost when we are cutting the case. I forgot and it fell out later, took me 10 minutes to find it again so that's why I am reminding you now.
Right........now we are ready to remove the LCD screen. It's lightly stuck to the shell with double sided tape so you are going to have to lever it up. Don't try and pull it up with ribbon cable because all you will achieve is ripping the foam on the back of your LCD panel.
If you lift the ribbon cable up gently you will be able to see the metal edge of the LCD panel and a little oblong access port molded into the shell. Use a flathead screwdriver, a hot dog sausage, or tweezers to gently lever the screen up and remove from it's surround.......You should be left with this.
We are almost ready to start modding the case but first we need to remove the clear double side bezel sticker thing that was holding the LCD in place (you can save and reuse this later if it comes off cleanly) and also remove the front perspex Screen protector. Put this somewhere safe as we will need it when we come to test fit the modded light unit later, before we put the new one in. You can save and re-use the screen protector if you want but I would recommend spending a couple of quid on a new one. After doing this mod changing the screen protector could be little bit more difficult than it used to be so it would be wise to invest in a fresh one so everything is nice and shiny and scratch free when it's all done.
Now would also be a good time remove any sticky residue left by the old screen protector to allow the new replacement one to sit flush to the case when we start putting it back together.
Cutting the shell
You don't have to do this, if you don't want to damage your GBC shell. You can just mount the unit between the LCD and the case like in the standard mod but you will end up with the "Viewing the screen through a square tunnel effect" and you will get more glare. The good news is this bit is pretty easy to do and if you want to Frontlight your GameBoy Colour perfectly, it's essential. The case is actually really soft plastic and cuts easily with anything. Even a scalpel or craft knife. The easiest way to do it is to get a hacksaw blade and wrap some tape around the end. Cut the case from each inside corner of the screen surround out towards the edge of our black lines. Then use a scalpel, craft knife or stanley knife and score around the edge of the black on each side to give us a guide cut. Then it's just a matter of making a few passes with the blade down each side and the plastic should just snap off cleanly down the cut line. You can make this even easier by warming up the knife blade with a lighter or over the stove. You don't have to get it red hot and don't worry about trying to cut all the way through the case, we just need a nice deep score line and the plastic will snap off no problem.
You could also use a dremel rotary cutter if you have one but it is probably easier just to cut it with a knife. Hopefully you can see from the pictures what you need to cut but basically what we are after is this. The shell has moulded lip which holds the LCD in place. The Moulding is essentially square with 2 recesses to accommodate the ribbon cable. a small one at the top (which we used to pry up the LCD and a big one at the bottom to fit where the ribbon cable is folded over on the back of the LCD screen. You can see it most clearly in this picture here.
What we are aiming for is to cut straight along the top and bottom from corner to corner in a straight line leaving the ribbon cable recesses in tact. When It comes to cutting the sides there is no fixed width as we will be cutting the light unit to fit the hole we have made in the case, all you need to do is make sure you leave a lip 2 or 3 millimeters wide at either side to support the LCD when it goes back in. We also need to take a chunk out of the bottom right corner which goes slightly beyond the vertical side moulding to accommodate the end of our light unit which overhangs the screen area on the right hand side. If you don't feel confident doing this without knowing the exact measurements you can leave that bit for now and just cut a square hole as we will need to do a test fit and final fettle once the light unit is cut down to size. The only reason I am showing you all this first is that I find once the light unit is out of the GBA SP the less time it spends out in the open or laid on a table the better. The fucking thing is so delicate it's not even funny but more on that in a sec.
GBA SP light unit
Are we all good so far ......? Right....now for the awkward bit, the GameBoy Advance SP frontlight unit.The actual electronics for the GBA SP light unit are incredibly simple, it's just a tiny surface mounted LED and resistor attached to a ribbon cable which contains the + and - power lines. That's it, so don't be scared to use or buy a knackered up GBA SP that doesn't work. As long as the screen is not cracked I would be very surprised if the light unit was broken or burned out. Don't worry about scratches and stuff as they will only be on the screen protector which we don't need. Do be careful about buying one with any dents in screen protector though, if it was hit hard enough it may have squashed the polarised ridges on the lens underneath. I made this mistake, it's virtually impossible to see until it's lit up but where the ridges were squashed by the impact, it will create ominous dark shadows which cannot be removed.
If you are wondering why I seem to have started off with a broken GBA SP screen in the beginning and now seem to be dismantling a perfectly good GameBoy Advance SP in pristine condition click here for the alternative ending to this tutorial.
Remove the 5 rubber bungs, then remove the screws underneath with the tri wing screwdriver. Close the clamshell and the back of the shell should just lift off. You will now be confronted with back of the LCD panel which is connected to the main bit of the GBA SP by a fat ribbon cable, unless you want the LCD for something just cut the ribbon cable and lift out the complete display unit from the GameBoy Advance SP. (if you want the LCD you will have to dismantle the whole thing and unclip the ribbon cable like we did with the GameBoy Colour).
Right...we need to detach the ribbon cable for the light unit from the ribbon cable for the LCD. Now, I have seen people make a real meal out of this, De-soldering pads, peeling off all the sponge on the back, completely dismantling the LCD panel and all sorts of other crazy shit, when all you need to do is this. Just flip the unit over so the ribbon cables and pads are in the bottom right hand corner as pictured below.
Then just snip the cable on the right (it should sit underneath) with scissors or a knife, just be careful not to cut the other one on the left (which should be connected to the top pad) then just peel up the tab which is only stuck down with double sided tape and should lift up easily.
We are now ready to remove the screen protector. This shouldn't be too difficult but be aware that the screen protector is stuck to the LCD panel with double sided foam, Sandwiched between the Screen protector, double sided foam and the LCD screen, is our delicate light unit which is in 3 pieces and can get pulled apart. If you are careful you should be able to remove the screen protector without lifting or tearing the double sided foam. Start from one of the top corners and peel it slowly off, if you are 2 fast or gung ho, you will pull the foam up along with parts of the light unit which is a massive pain and increases your chance of marking or damaging it so take it slow and steady.
With the screen protector removed, this is the bit where we need to start being really careful. The bit that is now exposed is the light dispersing lens from the front light unit which sits on top of the LCD panel. The light dispersing lens is a sheet of perspex with a polarised film layered on top. The polarised film has 1000's of tiny ridges which disperse the light laterally across the panel and down at the LCD rather than out at your face. This film is extremely delicate and if you touch it, at all, even with clean hands you will get greasy spots which cannot be removed. Trying to rub it with anything, even a lint free cloth can scratch the ridges on the film. It's so delicate that even a particles of dust can scratch the ridges. It won't look that bad, you might not even notice at first, until you put it all back together. But when you do and you turn it on for the 1st time, any fingerprints or scratches, no matter how small, will glow... really brightly...really really brightly. You have been warned! Also from here on in .......
DO NOT BLOW THE DUST OFF
WITH YOUR MOUTH...
....Under any circumstances. You will be really tempted, but don't do it. You might get away with it once or twice but you will eventually spit on the screen and then it's game over, even the smallest blob of spit will leave water marks if you leave it, and if you try and wipe it off you will just spread it around and ruin the polarised film. Any kind of strong solvent based degreaser will melt the ridges or leave smudges as it evaporates. You can use a mixture of a few drops of lighter fluid and water to get smears off but 99% of the time this will just end in disaster, as you only succeed in spreading the muck around along with any sticky residue from double sided foam around the edges. You may even think you have succeeded right up until the point you turn it on for the first time and are greeted with mysterious dark shadows and white patches and other assorted glowing crap which you couldn't even see until it was lit up.
The bottom line is...Do not touch the lens, if you do touch it and leave a print or a scratch, leave it. If you try and sort it out you will only make it worse. Wait till it's all finished and then assess how bad it is when it's lit. There are a few things you may be able to do to fix it which I will explain at the end.
You can however use a can of compressed air, one of those cans of "Air duster" with a straw in the nozzle or if you have access to an air compressor and Airbrush blow it off with that. This is an essential requirement if you want a dust free finished product and is well worth the minor investment. If you have to blow it off with your mouth be very, very careful. You have been warned.
Now to get the actual light unit out. This time start from the bottom right corner and start peeling away the double sided foam. You should see the metal strip which attaches to the bottom of the polarised panel. The 2 pieces are not glued together, the polarised panel simply sits in the metal channel so be careful not to lift them up as you are removing the foam. It's fine to touch the Metal strip so hold this down with you finger as you peel the foam away. Most of the time this is easy and it all comes off in one satisfying piece, sometimes it's an absolute pig, like this time. It was really stuck down along the metal strip and I had to use a knife to scrape it off. If this happens to you just be really careful and take it slow, it's so easy to accidentally touch or scrape the lens.
If the foam comes off cleanly you might want to put it to one side as you can use this to seal the unit later once it is in the GBC shell to stop dust being sucked in by the static charge of the LCD.
also worthwhile scratching a really small mark in the top right corner of the lens (on the bit that we are keeping after cutting) so that you can
tell at a glance which side of the polarised panel is the front in case
it falls out, which it almost certainly will at least once. If it does
fall out it's very difficult to work out which side is which and if you
put it back in the wrong way it will not work and you will be very
disappointed (FYI the mark will be in the top left when we are putting it into the GameBoy Colour).
Nearly there now, time to remove the light unit. Be very careful (I'm getting sick of hearing myself say it now), hold it either by the metal strip or the part that is going to be cut away.You can try and feed the little ribbon cable thingy through the slot in the plastic housing but it's easier to just snip the plastic housing and it will lift right out.
You should be left with this. Get some shiny magazine paper or greaseproof paper or something to sit it on. Anything you can do to minimize dust and particulate matter will make you life easier later.
delicate light unit
Did I mention how delicate the polarised film is yet? The light unit itself consists of 3 pieces, A polarised lens which disperses the light across the screen , a U channel metal reflector strip and a tiny strip of perspex about 4-5 mm wide which sits inside and runs the length of the metal channel. The perspex strip along with metal channel reflect the light along the length of the unit from an incredibly small surface mounted ultra bright LED attached to the brown ribbon cable at one end.
Step [4a] - Cutting the lense
Now barge the lab.............. This is what we are aiming for, a beautifully clean and polished trimmed down Perspex lens with matching light dispersing strip. The strip should be cut a couple of millimeters longer than the width of the lens as it protrudes slightly more than the lens at the LED end of the metal channel.
Cutting the lens isn't necessarily very difficult as long as you take some precautions. There is an awful lot of potential for things to go wrong when doing this and if you rush into it without thinking about it you will fuck it up. The method described below took a lot of trial and error to perfect and a lot GBA SP's died in the process. If you just try and cut it, you will end up with a dust covered, finger marked dirty blurry mess. If you don't tidy the cut ends up you will end up with a strobey, stripey mess. If you follow my instructions to the letter you will not only end up with a perfectly lit GBC but you will also smell fresher, look cleaner and be more attractive to the opposite sex.
(WARNING - Performing the GBC mylkmod may not actually improve body odor, personal hygiene or sexual desirability).
Here's what you need to do. Take your lens being careful only to hold it by the corners or edges. Blow it off with the compressed air and then carefully Wrap the lens in
paper or card, shiny paper is best as it will leave less particles of dust. [NEW] - I have found the absolute best thing to use us is a clean "poly pocket". One of those clear A4 folder things for holding paper in a ring binder. Wrap the lens leaving the bit we want to cut off sticking out of the end and tape it together. Make sure the paper is long enough to cover the whole thing except the bit we are cutting off.
Position the lens so our cut line is about 1mm out from the edge of the cardboard sleeve. Now tape round the edge of our parcel with the tape positioned right up to the cut line. Do this all the way round so that what we should end up with is a 1mm seal all the way round the lens which butts right up against our cutline.
This will stop any muck and dust from cutting sanding and polishing getting on the lens. Any sticky residue left by the tape will only be a Millimeter or so wide and will be hidden by grey/black bezel on GameBoy Colour Screen protector. When you have done that and you have a nice 1mm overlap of tape sealing the lens all the way round, tape up the other end of the parcel so our delicate lens is now completely sealed in and protected from all the flying crap which will ruin it.
Now the easy bit. Just cut the screen down with a hacksaw. Don't cut right up to the line, leave about 1 - 1.5mm as we will be sanding the end down after . Take it slow, make sure it's well supported underneath and be careful when you get towards the last bit as you can easily snap off the corner if you use too much force with not enough support. I know from whence i speak. Also even though the Lens is sealed up, try to hold it by the edges, don't put too much pressure on the flat of it while you are holding it still for cutting, even that can force a light dusting particles or prints from the envelope onto the surface which will be very difficult to see until it's too late.
Now depending how rough the end is either take some 1200 or 800 grit sandpaper and lay it on something flat. If your cut line is really wobbly or ragged start with some 800 grit and just swipe the cut end of the lens along the sandpaper until the line of debris left on the paper is one uniform stripe. Any black/ bare stripes are where the Perspex lens is not touching the sandpaper so the edge is still wonky. Be careful not to go too far and hit the masking tape seal just yet.
After that or if your cut line was fairly straight, take some 1200 grit and do the same thing to neaten and polish the end, perspex is quite soft and sands easily even with 1200 grit so be gentle. Sand the end till it reaches our masking tape seal at the cut line.
Now we just need to polish up the end. Make sure that the lens is still sealed in all the way round with our masking tape border and then just take some Brasso metal polish (You can also use, T-cut scratch polish for cars or rubbing compound for polishing lacquer paint finishes). Put a tiny amount on a soft cloth and just buff up the end until it becomes clear.
The Black pen line is where the paper/cardboard sleeve ends. The masking tape should go right up to the cut line. If the seal is not complete all the way round you will get dust and polish splatter inside the parcel and on your lense.
Step [4b] - Cutting the Perspex strip
Now do the same thing to the perspex strip, you don't have to wrap this up as it has no polarised layer and so is a lot less delicate. If it does get dirt you can just wipe it down after. Cut it 2mm longer than the width of the lens and just be careful not to snap it when you are sawing it to length.
Step [4c] - Cutting the Metal channel [easy way]
Now the next bit is to cut the metal channel. Put the perspex strip back in the channel and make sure it is positioned correctly and butted up against the little white surface mounted LED stuck to ribbon cable. The easiest way to cut the metal strip is to use wire cutters or tin snips. Before you go cutting the metal strip for real though I would do a quick test cut on the very end of the strip just to make sure the cutters you have are strong enough and sharp enough otherwise you will just butcher the end. The metal channel is made from stainless steel which is a real fucker to work with. If you can't get a clean cut out of your snips you might be better off using the hacksaw to cut it down but make sure you leave 3-4 mm extra to give you room to crimp the ends.
If your cutters are good, just snip the metal strip about 2 mm away from the end of the perspex strip inside. If you cut too close you will squeeze the perspex strip out of the end of the metal channel like a sausage out of a hot dog bun.
This should cut and crimp the ends together in one fell swoop. If there is any gap between the metal wings at the end, just crimp the very tip together with a pair of pliers. Don't try and crimp the ends too much or the sausage and hot dog thing will happen. If you over crimp it and squeeze the perspex strip out, you will have a hell of a job getting the stainless steel it back into shape without ruining the polished mirror finish inside.
This method is I think the best compromise, I have tried wrapping the end in tinfoil and cutting and bending the end of the metal strip into a flap (Best way, but really difficult) among other things and believe this is probably the best compromise between a perfect results and least chance to fuck it up. Doing it this way will get you a 90% perfect result. The bottom right hand corner of your screen might be just perceptibly duller than the left corner. No where near as distracting as the standard mod but this may or may not bother you. If you are anything like me this will drive you fucking insane..... in which case follow the instructions below.
Step [4d] - Cutting the Metal channel [Perfect way]
Right..... so you know how I said before not to over crimp the end of the metal channel because of the hotdog thing? Well now I want you to over crimp the end of the channel so the perspex strip pops out of the end of the channel like a Sausage out of a hot dog bun. Don't do it too much, just enough to raise the LED slightly like in the pictures below.
When you have done that take the perspex strip back out of the channel, get your 1200 grit sandpaper back out and lay it on something flat. Hold the trimmed end of the perspex strip at a 45 degree angle and swipe it across the paper, turn it over and do the same thing until you have a nice chisel tip point like the image below. Test the fit by putting it back in the channel. If it fit's perfectly you're done, take the stip back out and plolish up the end with Brasso until it is clear like glass and put it back in the channel. If the LED is still raised up and won't sit flush just file the end some more until it does. As always just be careful not to go too far because if you make it too short you will have to crimp the end some more which may push the strip out again and then you will have to sand it some more and before you know it the channel is too short and your lens won't fit anymore so then you will have to cut some more off the lens etc.........all of which just adds to the very high probability that you will fuck it up and end up having to buy another GBA SP. None of these things are particularly difficult to do in isolation but if anyone of them goes wrong the whole thing is ruined and you will probably have to start all over again again. Only you can decide how competent and careful V's how anal you are about the finished result.
If you do this well you should end up with a Perspex strip that fits in the channel perfectly, like a glove. With all parts of the perspex strip touching the walls of reflective metal channel. If you have done this right when you put it all back together you should get this..........
[You can see that when we look down the screen into the light bar. The light is completely even at both ends. What generally happens is the the LED end is considerably brighter than the reflective end which translates into a slightly underlit right hand corner. This is the first time I have ever done it this way and it only occurred to me because I messed up and over crimped the end and had to think of a way to fix it but it turns out it actually works as well, if not better than cutting and bending a flap over on the end which is infinitely more difficult to do].
Wire it up and
put it back together
Before we solder the wires on and start putting it back to together. We just need to do a test fit and final fettle of the GameBoy Colour case.
Pop your old screen protector back in the GBC and see how your new modified light unit measures up. You are probably going to have to remove some material in the bottom left hand corner to fit the metal strip and maybe some along the bottom edge to accommodate the full height of the unit. Measure and mark up any excess you need to remove and either just file or cut it away. Don't remove too much as we want the whole thing to be fairly snug fit.
You can also file a little channel in the screen surround at the bottom right for the frontlight ribbon cable to sit in. You don't have to do this but it makes it all nice and neat.
When you know everything fits ok it's time to solder on our wires, Take note of the polarity, orange is Positive, white is ground (I couldn't use red because it wouldn't show up right in the photos against the pink GBC). Make sure your metal strip is the same way round as mine. (If you de-soldered the pads rather than cutting the cable your solder pads will be on the opposite side).
Blow off your lens thoroughly now
...Not with your mouth!
"This is your last chance to get it spick and span before we mount it and seal it in the Gameboy. Even the most persistent particle should come off with a good strong blast from the AirDuster".
If you have done this or the original mod before and know all too well the perils of the delicate light unit and miraculous glowing crap phenomenon or just don't like how much glare comes from the GBC screen, this is the solution you have been looking for. This isn't the same kind of polarised film as is on the light unit which is essentially made up of hundreds of tiny prisms reflecting light back at the screen. This is the tinted smooth stuff they use on camera lenses to cut down reflections when photographing shiny things. They also use it for making 3D Cinema glasses and in in science class to show stressed areas in plastic (It's also the same stuff you will get in Backlight kit for the original DMG gameboy).
Just search "Polarised film" on ebay (Polarized if you're foreign). This stuff is fucking expensive but there is usually someone selling little 50mm by 50mm off cuts for science demonstrations for about £3-4.
This stuff is directional, depending on the orientation it will either be opaque or translucent. Hold it up to your TV or computer monitor and if you can't see through it, rotate it 90 degrees and it should become clear. Whichever side is at the top now, needs to go at the top of you GBC screen cover. Put it on the inside of your screen protector, it should stick to the double sided tape around the edge.
This addition does make a massive improvement to the mod. The colours will be a lot better, there will be a lot less motion strobing as you move and tilt the GBC. There will also be a lot less glare coming out at you from the screen but best of all it takes the edge of any luminous crap you might have on your screen. If you have any light fingerprints (and I stress light) or smears they will probably disappear or at the very least be greatly reduced. Same goes for and dust, it won't completely hide any dust or scratches but it will reduce the intensity and of them to a point where you don't want to throw it at the wall every time you turn it on.
If you don't want to do this now, don't have the polarised film yet or just want to try it without first. You can do it fairly easily at a later date as long as you take a few precautions to make removing the screen protector easy after the mod. You could also just increase the value of the resistor to reduce the brightness instead of using the polarised film but this doesn't work nearly as well and it won't do much to dull down the glowing crap . Either way...........................
....Once you know everything fits snugly, put your new screen protector in the GBC and place the complete light unit into place. [If you know you want to add the extra polarised film later you can use your old screen protector for now if you like as it will have less stick and will be easier to remove after the mod is complete] Keep blowing compressed air over it as you lower it into place to keep any dust from getting sandwiched between the two layers. Once the unit is in position it will be held in place by the double sided tape on the new screen surround so make sure you get any dust out before you press it down and stick it in place. Use a wooden coffee stirrer or a lollypop stick or something to gently push the light unit down around the edges It should sit flat against the screen protector. Our marked corner should be in the top left facing away from us and all the cut edges should be on the left hand side. You can now, if you absolutely have to, wipe the lens. The polarised ridges are on the other side sandwiched between the screen protector, the back is just plain. One word of warning though, don't use any kind of solvent based degreaser on your cloth. Although there is no polarised film on the back it does seem to be coated in some kind of UV layer that will rub off with any kind of solvent. It's really difficult to even see where it has rubbed away unless you catch the light at the right angle but when you put the thing together and turn it on you will get a slightly blurry, fuzzy effect where it has gone.
If you have got this far without scratching your Lens and without getting fingerprints or spit all over it and without a truckload of dust trapped between the layers...... You can now unclench your arse cheeks and breath a sigh of relief. The hard bit is now over, well done : )
One final thing to do before we re assemble it is try and make a seal to stop the static charge from the LCD sucking in dust. It also stops the LCD from moving around as there is a little bit of wiggle room and LCD panel can often end up sitting a bit wonky if it's not secured in place by something. If you saved the double sided bezel sticker you can use that. Or you can just use regular double sided tape (picture below Left), thin double sided draft excluder foam or even make a bezel from neoprene (picture below right). Be warned though if the neoprene or draft excluder foam is too thick you will end up with the "Viewing the LCD through a square tunnel effect" so the thinner the better.
It pays to make a good job of this, if you stick the LCD and the light unit together well,you will be able to remove and change the screen protector without disturbing the light unit and therefore get at it from the front. This can come in really handy later particularly if you want to add the extra polarised film mentioned above
Now it's just a matter of putting it all back together and soldering our wires to the GBC Motherboard to give the light unit some power. You can wrap the wires around the control mouldings (so you have plenty of slack in case it all goes wrong and you have to open it up again) and use the rubber contact pads to hold them in place. There are a few different places you can solder the wires but by far the easiest are the ones from the original mod as shown below.
Solder the White ground wire to power switch housing, You could also solder it to the housing of the link cable port or directly to the negative battery terminal. Solder the power lead to point shown in the pictures below. There is a row of 4 solder terminals in a line, we want the very top one. Use a 47 ohm resistor (Y/P/B). You can use a higher value resistor if you find the light too bright and don't want to, or can't add the extra polarised film ( the effect will not be exactly the same) but you must use a resistor, Even though the GBA SP runs at 3.8v and the GameBoy Colour only runs at 3v, and there is already a tiny surface mounted resistor on the ribbon cable next to the LED, if you don't use the resistor it will burn out the LED. It will all light up fine for about 2 seconds then it will go blue, then it will die. I know because I thought I would just try it while doing this tutorial, hence the need to ruin another perfectly good GBA SP. Hey ho, I Learned another lessons so you don't have to.
And we are done. Stick the back on and put the screws in (don't forget the on/off slider) and some fresh batteries. Turn it on and enjoy your (hopefully) perfectly frontlit mylkmod - GameBoy Colour. Cheers, Jody
I really hope you find this tutorial useful. Would love to know how you got on or if there is anything you are not sure about or need explaining, I am always happy to respond to emails (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you want to send pictures of your finished GameBoy Colour that would be even better, if I get a few i'll start a gallery page. I might even do some kind of T-shirts or other prizes for anyone who manages to do a really clean, dust, smear and fingerprint free effort in 2 GBA SP's or less.
"Don't want money....Got money...want recognition". ............ Harry R. Bissell Jr
If you found this info helpful want to say thanks, If you can post a Link to my site or give me shout out on the social media of your choice, that would be awesome and greatly appreciated There are no adverts on this website or any of my youtube video's, No begging for paypal donations and no trying to convince you to buy shit you don't need with money you don't have. I do all of this stuff just for the joy of it and if everyone except me died tomorrow in a horrific accident I would still be making, modding and painting shit and i would probably still post the pictures on the internet just so I could look at them.
I have fucked it up, what do I do ?
Dunno....depends what the problem is. Lets start with the easy ones.............
- Lights up but screen is glows white and I can barely see the LCD through the glare. You have got the lens in backwards you need to take it out and flip it round.
- It sorta works but not really, the light bar's glowing at the bottom but it doesn't seem to be spreading the light across the screen properly. You have got the lens in sideways you muppet, take it out and rotate it 90 degrees. Your marked corner should be top left when viewed from inside the shell. Top right if you take the screen protector off to get at it from the front.
- Front light doesn't come on at all but Gameboy works. Theres something wrong with your wiring. It might be as simple as cold solder joint or it could be as disastrous as a burnt out LED if you got the polarities wrong. You will have to dismantle it and check all the wiring against the pictures. If it all seems correct, try resoldering the joints and make sure there are no accidental solder bridges causing a short. If it all seems right you may have burnt out the LED somehow and will have to replace at least the ribbon cable with the LED attached (it just peels off the metal strip) or just re do the whole thing if you have other problems.
- It all works but there are really bad moving strobe lines all across the screen no matter what angle I hold it at. You haven't sanded and polished the end of the lens properly and have left a ragged edge...sort it out
- It all works but the light is far brighter on the left than it is on the right. You haven't dealt with cut end of the metal channel correctly, try wrapping the end of the channel in tinfoil and see if that improves matters. If it does, you can either leave it like that or take it out and crimp the end properly like you should have done in the first place
- I've done it and it all works but it looks a total fucking mess, there is enough dust in there to fill an egg timer, every single grain of which is twinkling like a 1000 nova suns exploding in the night sky. There are weird dark patches contrasted with washed out white smears. There are also small dark shadows in places and a couple of hairline scratches which I couldn't even see before I put it back together and turned it on, but they are now glowing like a gang of ants are having a lightsaber fight in my Gameboy....Yeah that'll happen. You have either ignored everything I've said, read everything I have said but not taken it seriously, or read everything I have said and taken it seriously but you are really clumsy and cack handed. Either do it all again and be more careful or give up.
If you recognise some of the above problems but it isn't a total disaster there may be a some thing you can do. First, the things you can't fix...............
- The small dark shadows are where the polarised ridges have been squashed and are no longer reflecting light back at the screen...nowt you can do about that.
- The scratches are.....well....scratches, they're there to stay I'm afraid
Now the things you can fix.......maybe.........sort of
- The dust is.... you guessed it.... dust. Provided it isn't pressed onto the panel you should be able to blow it off with the air duster. First remove the Screen protector and do the front and see how its looking. If it won't blow off, at this point you might as well try wiping it, you don't have a lot to lose. Use a dry microfibre cloth for cleaning glasses but don't scrub at it and stay clear of the edges because you will just end up wiping sticky residue across the screen. If that improves matters but there is still dust trapped at the back, strip the back down, remove the LCD and clean the back of the lens. You can be a bit braver with the back but don't get complacent.
- The weird dark patches and the white smears are 2 sides of the same coin. They are both just sticky or greasy crap smeared on the lens. Depending on which way you wipe it, it will alternate between glowing cum stains and ominous dark clouds. At this point you might as well have a go at cleaning it although the chances are you will just make it worse. Use a few drops of lighter fluid in n egg cup full of water. Wipe from the centre out and move to clean bit of the cloth with each wipe. Avoid the edges of the lens like the plague as this is where the sticky shit from the screen surround will have made it's home. What always seems to happen to me is I get it about 90-95% clean and just as I do the last bit I catch some sticky shit from the edge and end up back at square one. No word of a lie....I spent 4 hour last week trying to clean one of the lenses, I kept getting 90% there then back to square one, 90% there then back to square one....for 4 hours and in the end the lens was just a mess. 4 hours..... and I already knew all too well how it was gonna turn out. The message here is, if the smears are fairly minor, just live with it for now. Add the extra polarised film if you haven't already and promise yourself you will re do the lens the next time a cheap GBA comes up on ebay (you won't find one this week cos I've bought them all)
Adding the extra polarised layer after the fact 
Here you can see I have sealed the the light unit in place using black hot glue. This way the Light unit and LCD will stay in place even when the screen protector is removed which is really useful for a number of reasons, not least of which is that you can add the extra polarised sheet you want even after the mod has been completed.
- I think there are (at least) 2 different
types of polarised film used on the lens (and also 2 or 3 different types of
the thin perspex strip but that matters much less). One type looks like
1000's of tiny microscopic rides like the ridges which make up your
fingerprints and the other kind looks more like 1000's of little
pyramids arranged in a grid. The first one (the ridges) is the one
that's an absolute bastard. That's the one that will get a fingerprint
on it just by looking at it funny. That's also the one that even a spec
of dust can scratch. The Pyramid / grid one is a little (and I do mean a
little) bit more resilient but please don't be lulled into a false
sense of security or it will bit you on the ass. It pays to have a
healthy fear of touching or wiping either if you want a high quality
- The ribbon cable holding the LED just peels off - Can just peel it off and swap it rather than doing the whole thing.
- If you stuck the LCD down to the light unit well with double sided , you should be able to take off the screen protector without disturbing the light unit. This means you can change the screen protector easily (or add in the polarised film). It also means you can get at the lens from the front, allowing you to blow off trapped dust or change the lens completely without having to redo the rest of the mod.
- When buying Screen protectors on eBay for the GameBoy Colour, don't get the ones with a yellow backing and incorrect wide space C o l o r text. They are shit. The screen area is usually printed wonky, the paint on the bezel is really thin and the light shows through all the way round. Get the white backed ones with Color letters squashed together.
- If you ruin or break the solder pads on the light unit ribbon cable, you can scrape of the plastic to get to metal track inside and solder direct to that.
- Don't use harsh solvent degreasers on the light lens. They will melt the ridges and/or rub off the UV coating on the back. If you have to wipe it. Use a few drops of lighter fluid in egg cup full of warm water.
- If you are having trouble with light showing through on the screen cover (some have thicker paint than others) you can squirt some black hot glue or bathroom sealer into the gaps to seal it all up.
- Be careful who you listen to, anyone
who tells you that mounting the light unit horizontally is easy or that
"they have no problems cleaning the lens", is either lying, delusional,
has no standards, or is in possession of a magic cloth bestowed upon
them by a Genie. If they can't show it....assume they don't know it.
Things I Fucked up during this tutorial
- Burnt out the LED....twice trying it without the resistor (once to try, twice to be sure. In retrospect I should have got the multimeter out or at least checked the GBC schematic)
- 2nd GBA screen I bought had 2 dints in which you could barely see....until it was in the GBC and all back together. The screen had 2 small black shadows. Tried lining the screen surround with with tin foil to reflect the light back from all angles....still shadowed. Then I noticed a very faint white smudge in the bottom left corner which you could barely see. Drove me a bit mad. Wanted it to be perfect for the photos. Tried wiping it off even though I knew all too well what would happen and ended up with white sticker smudges and dark patches? spent 4 hours trying to gently get it all off and only succeeded in spreading shit all over previously clean areas....FAIL!
- New GBA SP arrived early Wednesday (21/5/14) morning, tried to re-do the mod quickly before work so I could finally get some sense of completion. I think we all know where this is going..... Cut the lens fine, came to put the new lens in from the front, all going really well.....just shoehorning the top of the lens in with the flat end of a scalpel handle.....slipped.... put a massive scratch down the polarised film like the Grand Canyon which proceeded to glow brighter than the sun when I turned it on
- Sat 24/5/2014 another GBA SP arrived this morning. Day off today, going to take it really slow with this one and hopefully have some nice finished photos by the evening ? Success.......Finally. All done . Pretty much perfect, one tiny spec of dust just on the left edge and the faintest hint of hairline of sticky shit right along the bottom edge where the double sided foam left a residue when removing it from the GBA SP.
GameBoy Colour Codes
Adding a GBA SP Speaker.......
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